The Willamette Valley through time & Intergenerational Trauma

The Willamette Valley through time


People have lived in the Willamette Valley for thousands of years. Known as the Kalapuya Indians, they had diverse, rich cultures, were experienced peaceful traders, and had a carefully maintained ecosystem controlled by fire and harvest practices. The Atfalati-Kalapuya were the Kalapuya of the Tualatin Valley that lived in what is today known as Washington County. (underlined by SLF)

Since Time Immemorial (underlined by SLF)

15,000 -ish Years Ago

Missoula Floods

The Willamette Valley was shaped at the end of the last ice age by a series of up to eighty huge floods. It was the force of those floods [GLACIAL MOVEMENT] that brought the fifteen ton Willamette Meteorite, a sacred item known as tamanawas, the “Heavenly Visitor,” to the Clackamas people. A local settler named Ellis Hughes moved [STOLE] the huge meteorite to his homestead in 1902. It was hauled to Portland for the 1905 Lewis and Clark Exposition and finally ended up at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, where it is today. The museum has an agreement with the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde that recognizes the spiritual importance of the meteorite and provides internships for Native American youth. (changes by SLF)

7,700 Years Ago

Mount Mazama erupted, leaving behind present day Crater Lake. The Kalapuya [KLAMATH] people who sought shelter in the Coast Range have passed down the stories of this event to many generations.

6 [15],000 Years Ago

First large settled villages in the Willamette Valley appeared.

Contact Period


European explorers such as Francis Drake, who sailed to the pacific Ocean around the tip of South American, may have reached the Southern Oregon Coast.

Historic Period

1750-1850- Contact with fur trappers and early settlers brought catastrophic epidemics of Old World diseases such as malaria and smallpox to the Pacific Northwest. More than 90 percent of the Kalapuya people, who once numbered more than 40,000, died.

1792- Captain Robert Gray explored a “great river” and traded goods with local Indians living there. He named it the Columbia River after his ship the Columbia Redviva.

1806- Lewis and Clark. While they traveled through the Columbia River Gorge, these famed  early Euro-American explorers may have heard the term Kalapuya from the Chinook [a Clowewalla man] in reference to the people living in the Willamette Valley. Image caption: Lewis & Clark at Three Forks, painting by Edgar S. Paxson.

Intergenerational Trauma (title added by SLF)

1824-1860- Ft. Vancouver. More than thirty-five different ethnic and tribal groups lived and worked at the Hudson’s Bay Company headquarters. The site became a major gathering places for the fur and supply trade.

1842- “Kill the Indian, Save the Man” Jason Lee Methodist Settlement begins at Willamette Mission south of Champoeg. Lee was largely insensitive to historic native culture, as were most missionaries in the west. This is the first attempt settlers make to assimilate the Kalapuyans in a western-style school. (added by SLF)

1844- The Oregon Trail Begins. Settlers from the east begin arriving in local tribal territories. (added by SLF)

1850- The Donation Land Claim Act granted land to homesteaders in the Oregon Territory, up to 640 acres for a married couple. This included lands that the Kalapuya had occupied since time immemorial. The act promoted large-scale settlement in Oregon.

One of the problems with settler encroachment on Indian lands was that Indians were not even considered “people,” much less thought to have “laws.” For many settlers, this is the situation, for others, like miners, their intentions were to acquire gold at any cost, regardless of who they impacted or where they trespassed. -David G. Lewis, PhD (Grand Ronde) (added by SLF)

Reservation. Several treaties led to the establishment of the Grand Ronde Reservation, promising over 60,000 acres of heavily forested land in the Coast Range. The Kalapuya, along with many other Indian tribes from all over Oregon and northern California, had to move onto the Reservation.

In western Oregon over twenty-seven tribes were consolidated on two reservations. This stands in contrast to previous decades, where treaties with eastern tribes involved individual tribes who were removed to individual reservations. -David G. Lewis, PhD (Grand Ronde) (added by SLF)

1856- Citizens of Oregon sent a petition to President Franklin Pierce protesting the Land Claims and forced removal of those peoples.

The Indian population had been decimated by disease, and regular acts of violence committed by settlers and miners. Despite this, the Rogue River Tribes were spurred on by mass exterminations and territorial encroachments, and mounted several years of guerrilla-type warfare, from 1854-1856. -David G. Lewis, PhD (Grand Ronde) (added by SLF)

-In the winter of 1856, the federal government began the forced removal of the Umpqua, Southern Kalapuya, Rogue River, and Chasta peoples to a reservation in Oregon’s Coast Range. The Oregon Trail of Tears marched hundreds of native people over 200 miles across rough terrain during harsh winter conditions. Many did not survive the journey. -David G. Lewis, PhD (Grand Ronde) (added by SLF)

1859- Oregon became a state.

1870’s- Grand Ronde Government. Our first elected council members take office. (added by SLF)

1880’s- Joseph Gaston attempted to drain Lake Wapato to create more farmland in present day Gaston.

Indian life on reservations in Oregon, in the 1850s to the 1890s, was very difficult. Forts were built on the mountain passes near the Grand Ronde and Siletz reservations. There forts were manned by army troops. Indians were not allowed to leave the reservation except with a pass. -David G. Lewis, PhD (Grand Ronde) (added by SLF)

1887- Dawes Allotment Act. Indian Reservations such as Grand Ronde were divided up. Much of the land was soon owned by non-Indian settlers.

-The reduction of reservation lands was only the beginning of a number of other policies that consistently threatened Tribal abilities to remain resilient through the later half of the 19th century. However, the full impact of the Dawes Act was not to be felt until well into the 20th century as reservation lands continued to be sold to the public. -David G. Lewis, PhD (Grand Ronde) (added by SLF)

1990- At the time of the establishment of the reservation there were about 1,000 Indians residing in the Grand Ronde Reservation. This population declined due to disease, malnutrition, and assmiliation, so that the population in 1900 was about 300. -David G. Lewis, PhD (Grand Ronde) (added by SLF)

1924- Indian Citizen Act. Declared all Native Americans naturalized citizens of the U.S. (added by SLF)

1936- The Grand Ronde Constitution and Business Council are created. (added by SLF)

1940s- During the 1940s Congress needed to reduce government spending. Congress then sought a final solution and settled on a plan to liquidate all Indian reservations, close the Indian Office, and terminate all federal recognition of the tribes. The government’s intent was to eliminate forever any additional expenses from the tribes. -David G. Lewis, PhD (Grand Ronde) (added by SLF)

1954- Termination. Tribes capable of “self-management,” such as Grand Ronde, lost recognition and rights as sovereign nations.

1957- The Dalles Dam flooded Celilo Falls on the Columbia River.

1983- Restoration of Tribal recognition.

1988- The Grand Ronde Reservation Act restored 9,811 acres of the original reservation.

Caption on top image: Tribal Elder and former Tribal Council Chairwoman Kathryn Harrison in Washington D.C. to lobby for Grand Ronde’s Restoration in the 1980’s.

Caption on bottom image: Indians fishing at Celilo Falls ca. 1941


Learn more about the photo of the Grand Ronde Restoration Hearing

Hearing Photo

Return to the This IS Kalapuyan Land exhibition page

This IS Kalapuyan Land